Do You Believe in Life After Marriage?
Phil Costello
/ Categories: Weddings

Do You Believe in Life After Marriage?

by Phil Costello

What I would like to talk about here is the idea of a sit-down with your betrothed to articulate your respective expectations of each other before actually getting married. I don’t mean ‘pre-nups’ - they are something else to consider before getting married. I’m referring to a pre-emptive ‘getting on the same page’ in terms of how we live our lives on a daily basis.

The merits of this seem obvious, so much so that many might see it as a given that you’re both on the same page and therefore no discussion is necessary. This is especially so if you have been living together already for some time. Getting on the same page before the wedding can help with smoother sailing down the line.


However, my experience is that, because being married elevates a relationship to a new status, issues can and do arise that didn’t appear to be there when you weren’t married.


After the Honeymoon

The fact is, these issues were there but many relationships leading up to a marriage might be considered something of an early ‘honeymoon’ in the larger context of a lifetime relationship. There is the novelty of them for a start – ‘hey, this is fun, we’re living together’ - and very often children haven’t yet entered the equation. Also, it may be too early for some to be pooling their finances, assets and incomes.

Consequently, potential issues of incompatibility in these areas aren’t yet visible. After we get married, though, we start to realise that what was acceptable has now become untenable and tensions start to develop.

Here are some examples of what I’m talking about.

Finances: An obvious one. One person might always have considered that, after getting married, sharing of all finances, income and assets was a given. The other might not have shared this assumption.

Division of labour: A common bone of contention. Is there the expectation that all housework, including cooking, is to be shared equally? If so, and it hasn’t been the case already, this needs discussion.

Socialising: Many couples socialise together, whether mostly or occasionally. It doesn’t really matter how we do it, as long as it is mutually acceptable. The important part is to get it out in the open early if one person isn’t happy with the current socialising culture or has different expectations for married life.

Children: The obvious aspect to this is to openly discuss whether, as a couple, you want children and how they are to be looked after, i.e., who will stop work to look after them or will childcare be required. There are more subtle areas to this as well that may be overlooked: if one parent is working and the other providing full-time care, what are the expectations around ‘time out’ from work and childcare for both parents? As I describe a few of these potential issues they seem obvious and the need for discussion tends to sell itself. However, the other problem is our general disinclination to want to ‘rock the boat’.


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Communication: Rocking the Boat?

What I mean by this is that, when the relationship appears to be going well with general harmony prevailing, it can be the very pleasantness of this climate that can dissuade us from wanting to ‘ruin it’ by bringing up uncomfortable topics for discussion. Why spoil it? The same approach to other areas of our lives, though, would be clearly counter-productive. Would we really be content to stay in the first job we ever had because we ‘didn’t want to spoil it’ by going for a promotion? Similarly, are we really content to let a friend who irks us with some aspect of their behaviour to continue doing so because ‘that’s just the way it is’?

Relationships have to be organic - it was Woody Allen who said they are like sharks and have to keep moving to survive (he then turned to Annie Hall and reflected, ‘I think we have a dead shark on our hands’). Change is typically challenging for us to take in our stride so this also contributes to our aversion to ‘rocking the boat’.

If nothing else, the mere act of raising topics for discussion makes us better at doing the one thing that will give us our best chance of creating a successful and enduring marriage: open communication.

 

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